The head of a major research hospital says a “sensitive and structured” restart of services post-Covid will take 18 months.
Roland Sinker, chief executive of Addenbrooke’s Hospital, Cambridge, is planning a phased return to normality within departments.
Mr Sinker said the number of patients admitted daily with the virus had dropped from 10 to two.
“We’re not going to spring back to where we were 10 weeks ago,” he warned.
“Covid is still with us and is still an enormous challenge for society and for our health and care system.”
More than 70 patients who tested positive for coronavirus are currently being treated at Addenbrooke’s, 15 of whom remain in a critical condition.
Mr Sinker said the hospital will begin by making more outpatients’ services remote – with appointments by phone or video call.
Four operating theatres have also opened in the last week to provide additional urgent care, he said.
Mr Sinker also appealed to people who are staying away from the hospital because of fears over coronavirus.
“These are our family members, or friends or neighbours, who we know are choosing not to come to hospital or are having procedures cancelled,” he said.
The aim is to “prioritise those people who are most poorly and most in need”.
“We’re going to work through every single service in a structured way and start to communicate to patients who we’ve not spoken to about when they can expect their care can be provided,” he told the BBC.
The hospital has been at the forefront of Covid testing technology and collaborates closely with researchers at the University of Cambridge.
Almost 2,000 scheduled operations have been cancelled at Addenbrooke’s and a further 9,000 patients remain on waiting lists for treatment.
“Staff here at Addenbrookes and the Rosie have been through every single emotion you can imagine, through very testing experiences,” he said.
“We are starting to move some staff back across to work in theatres so we can restart operations.
“But that is a very sensitive and delicate process – and we look to do that that in a way that’s safe.”